U.S Army Futures Command is encouraging young people to explore the intellectual and physical world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as part of ongoing efforts to foster innovative contributions to future military advancements.
This past summer, groups of middle school and high school students participated in an Army-sponsored STEM enrichment program called Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science, or GEMS.
The Army hosts GEMS at select Army research laboratories and engineering facilities, offering participants who apply and are accepted into the program a behind-the-scenes look at the cutting-edge work of military scientists and engineers.
Approximately 15 locations – including sites facilitated by Army Futures Command’s Combat Capabilities and Development Command (DEVCOM) and Medical Research and Development Command (MRDC), as well as the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) – facilitate the program.
During hands-on workshops held this year at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, students learned about climate and dynamics, radio frequency jamming, circuits, 3D printing, rockets, robotics and ethical hacking. The White Sands Middle School GEMS program, led by ATEC, took place the week of June 21 and included the participation of more than 30 students.
The initiative seeks to inspire STEM curiosity early in students’ learning, before they have made significant decisions about academic or career pathways. It is just one STEM experience of the many offered through the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP).
Brian Leftridge, a STEM outreach specialist with DEVCOM and AEOP deputy cooperative agreement manager, describes GEMS as a “summer enrichment program that takes place within our Army S&T labs and centers.”
“It’s meant to engage and inspire students to learn more about the different STEM disciplines, what it means to be a scientist or researcher, what type of career opportunities are out there – both within the DoD and beyond,” Leftridge said.
He added that GEMS provides “a great opportunity for students to be able to access learning that they typically wouldn’t get in a school setting.”
The program partners with local teachers to help deliver courses and utilizes the assistance of high school- and college-aged students as “near-peer mentors” to encourage engaged learning.
GEMS is of no cost to participants and encourages the participation of traditionally underserved students.
Army Futures Command senior leaders recognize the importance of GEMS and similar initiatives and are eager to continue supporting immersive activities designed to elicit greater STEM interest and engagement.
“Army-sponsored youth STEM initiatives contribute meaningfully and thoughtfully to the development of our nation’s future scientists and engineers, and Army Futures Command is proud to be an active leader of these unique and interactive programs,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas H. Todd III, deputy commanding general of acquisition and systems at Army Futures Command.
For more information on AEOP and all of its exciting STEM opportunities, visit: https://www.usaeop.com.
For specific information on AEOP’s GEMS programs and how students can apply for next summer, visit: https://www.usaeop.com/program/gems/.